Five Players to Watch: Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa
This is the last in a series of articles highlighting some of the players not noted on off-season prospect lists. The players are as they are presently listed on rosters, and do not necessarily reflect where each player will start the season.
The first report focused on the five players in Rookie Ball and Short-Season A-Ball to watch during the upcoming season, and part two looked at such players as Stephen Bruno, Kyle Hendricks and Michael Jensen. The third and final report focuses on players at the Double-A and Triple-A levels in the Cubs’ system.
John Andreoli, OF
While the focus of many minor league observers has been on several promising outfielders, none have embodied the grinder mentality sought by the front office more than John Andreoli. It is because of this that Andreoli poses one of the first questions of the 2013 minor league season: Does potential trump performance?
The son of former USFL and NFL linebacker John Andreoli, the honor student and three-sport star (football, baseball, and track) at St. John’s High School in Shrewsbury, MA joined the University of Connecticut in 2009. As a freshman, Andreoli played in 34 games, starting 13, and hit .367 with a home run, 12 RBI, and three stolen bases in 60 at bats. He went on to hit .362 and .317 over the next two seasons and ended his career with a .340 batting average, two home runs, 80 RBI and 49 stolen bases.
The Cubs selected John Andreoli in the 17th round of the 2011 draft, but had trouble signing the soon-to-be senior. Andreoli finally inked a deal prior to the signing deadline and was assigned to the Rookie League, AZL Cubs. Andreoli went 3-for-7 with a stolen base in two games. He was then ushered to Single-A Peoria and appeared in eight games while hitting .200 with an RBI and two stolen bases.
While it came as a surprise to many observers when John Andreoli was assigned to High-A Daytona to start the 2012 season, he was more than prepared for the task. Andreoli competed in the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League in 2010 and 2011, and was named to the All-Star team in his final year. Andreoli played against some high profile prospects such as Kolten Wong (St. Louis) and Tony Zych. Andreoli batted .297 with seven stolen bases.
As a member of the D-Cubs, he had to cede both the leadoff and centerfield spots to prospect Matt Szczur. However, it was Andreoli who was the more consistent top of the order presence. Andreoli led the pitching-rich Florida State League with 55 stolen bases while batting .289 with a home run and 25 RBI. He also drew an astonishing 75 walks, and ended up with a .402 OBP and a .378 SLG (.778 OPS). His numbers are even more impressive when you consider that he spent most of 2012 as the number two hitter, having to take more pitches to set up stolen base opportunities for Szczur, Arismendy Alcantara, and Ronald Torreyes.
In assessing the 6-foot-1, 215-pound, 22-year old, the glaring weakness is power, or lack of it. Only 26 of John Andreoli’s 119 hits went for extra bases … one home run, 17 doubles, and eight triples. While Andreoli can be considered adequate at all three outfield positions, he profiles best in left field. However, with his history, seeing his batting average actually rise when he plays Double-A ball is not out of the question. But therein lays the rub for Andreoli. While he outperformed Szczur last season, and has a better upside than off-season signee Johermyn Chavez, there may not be room for Andreoli at Double-A Tennessee. That will be especially true if the front office wants to stash fringe Major League outfielders Brian Bogusevic and Darnell McDonald at Triple-A Iowa to start the season. Will the numbers win out for John Andreoli? We will have to wait and see.
Eric Jokisch, LHP
A lefty is a somewhat rare thing; and a successful left-handed pitcher even rarer. So when a pitcher like Eric Jokisch comes along, you may want to overlook some possible flaws and concentrate more on what he does best … get batters out.
A classic “All-American kid” out of Virginia, Illinois, Eric Jokisch was class valedictorian and a member of the National Honor Society as well as being a three-sport star (baseball, basketball, golf). On the diamond, Jokisch led his team in batting and stolen bases in 2006, along with pitching two no-hitters (one in a 2005 regional playoff). As a senior, he was 9-0 with a 0.91 ERA and 141 strikeouts in 67 innings, while hitting .658 with 41 RBI. In 2007, he was a 39th round draft pick of the Cleveland Indians, but wound up accepting a scholarship to Northwestern University.
Eric Jokisch was 8-2 with a 4.17 ERA in 73.1 innings with four complete games, and was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year in his first year with the Wildcats. As a sophomore and junior, Jokisch led Northwestern in victories and innings pitched, and was named an academic All-American each season … and was also first-team All-Big Ten as a junior. The Cubs selected Jokisch in the 11th round of the 2010 draft. After a one inning tune up with the AZL Cubs, he was assigned to Short Season-A Boise, where he had a rough go of things. Jokisch posted a 2-3 record with a 7.08 ERA, a 2.010 WHIP, and only 28 strikeouts in 34.1 innings.
Eric Jokisch opened the 2011 season with Single-A Peoria and was designated as a piggyback starter to 2010 first round pick, RHP Hayden Simpson. Jokisch began the season 7-0, and when physical troubles shut Simpson down, he moved into a starter role and went 2-3 the rest of the way. Jokisch finished with a 9-3 mark in 25 games with the Chiefs (2.96 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP in 118.2 innings) that included nearly a 4:1 strikeout to walk ration (103 strikeouts and 32 walks). Jokisch then jumped up to Double-A Tennessee and finished out the season with a 1-0 record in three starts that included a 4.11 ERA and a 1.63 WHIP (15 strikeouts and nine walks in 15.1 innings).
The Cubs took a more conservative approach with Eric Jokisch last season. The Cubs started him at High-A Daytona, but after a meager 3-4 start with only a 3.45 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP in nine games, Jokisch was promoted back to Tennessee. With the Smokies he seemed to pick-up the pace. Jokisch was 7-2 with a 2.91 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP in 17 starts (105 innings). For the season his composite 1.192 WHIP was second only to Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Year Nick Struck and his 115 strikeouts tied Michael Jensen for third among minor league starters behind Struck and Austin Kirk.
The 6-foot-3, 185 pounder sports a high 80s, low 90s fastball and a curve, but his bread-and-butter pitch is his change-up. Inevitably, soft-tossers like Eric Jokisch will get compared to long time Major Leaguer Jamie Moyer, but Jokisch has a much stronger physical make-up and is a much better athlete than Moyer. After the season he put together in 2012, the 23-year old probably should be starting the upcoming season at Triple-A Iowa … but a numbers crunch made by massive pitching signings in the off-season may force Jokisch back to Tennessee.
Greg Rohan, IF/OF
For most prospects, it’s a matter of being in the right place at the right time … that sort of luck hasn’t seemed to have happened for Greg Rohan.
Following his graduation from South Range High School in North Lima, OH in 2004, Greg Rohan moved on to Kent State University where he had a stellar career with the Golden Flashes. Rohan was named the Mid-Amercan Conference Player-of-the-Year as a senior in 2008. Rohan belted 20 home runs and hit .355 with a .433 OBP and 61 RBI. Because he missed all of 2006 with an injury, he went back to Kent State for a fifth year in 2009 and hit .348 with 15 homers and 63 RBI.
The Cubs drafted Greg Rohan in the 21st round in 2009 and immediately assigned the 23-year old to Short Season-A Boise. The impression he made with the Hawks has more than likely stayed with evaluators through his career. Rohan hit only .249 with four homers and 21 RBI in 61 games while fielding .915 at third base. Rohan was promoted to Single-A Peoria for 2010 and was transitioned to the outfield, while still seeing some time at both third and first base. His bat picked up a bit, and after hitting .298/.354/.428/782 with five home runs and 53 RBI, he was promoted to High-A Daytona. With the D-Cubs, Rohan played a bulk of his games in the outfield and hit .250/.295/.329/.624 with a homer and 15 RBI in 41games.
While appearing to get his career back on track, Greg Rohan suffered another setback in 2011. When third base prospect Brandon May contracted Valley Fever, the organization was suddenly left without anyone to fill that position for Low-A Peoria. Player development asked Rohan to take a demotion and hold down the position with outfielder Anthony Giansanti and shortstop Arismendy Alcantara until either May was healthy or prospect Dustin Geiger was ready. He was a good soldier and took the situation in stride. Rohan hit .314 with five home runs and 52 RBI, and was named to the Midwest League All-Star team. Rohan also had a career highlight with the Chiefs, as his diving catch in the outfield helped preserve a Fourth of July no-hitter for Austin Kirk. Rohan was promoted to Daytona in mid-July and was an integral part of their drive to winning the Florida State League championship. Rohan clubbed six homers and drove in 19 runs while hitting .345 with a .996 OPS.
After helping out the organization in 2011, one would think that a promotion to Double-A Tennessee to start the 2012 season was in the cards, especially with infielder Junior Lake out with a bad back. But the organization did a 180 on Greg Rohan again, not only sending him back to Daytona, but returning him to third base. Once again, Rohan didn’t sulk as he went on to crush the notoriously tough FSL pitching. Rohan hit .285/.350/.495/845 with 12 home runs and 65 RBI … and was once again named an All-Star. Rohan was promoted to Tennessee at the beginning of July, and by the end of the month was on a .296 tear with four homers and six RBI. It was then that it seems as if fortune was turning in his favor, as the Cubs organization fired most of their player development staff and Rohan was immediately promoted to Triple-A Iowa. Being one step away from “The Show” didn’t seem to affect him, as he hit .290/.330/.449/.779 for the I-Cubs with four home runs and 24 RBI. For the year, Rohan led all Cub minor leaguers with 21 home runs and was second with 106 RBI. In 130 games for the D-Cubs, Smokies, and I-Cubs last season, Rohan put together a .282/.349/.491 slash line with a .839 OPS.
In assessing the 6-foot, 205-pound right-handed hitter, Greg Rohan is a player capable of playing the “four corners” (third base, first base, left and right fields) with first base being his best defensive position. He has better than average power and has always been a run producer. In some ways, his game is reminiscent of former St. Louis Cardinals Ryan Ludwick and Skip Schumacher in that he may not be an All-Star, but could be a vital cog on a winning team. Rohan will be 27 years old on May 11, so some may see him as an over-aged prospect or an underachiever. However, if you consider that he lost approximately three and a half years of his baseball life due to injury, one mediocre season, and poor player development decisions, he’s more like a 24-year old on target with his development at Triple-A.
Zac Rosscup, LHP
The trade for Matt Garza in 2011 is one of the most hotly debated trades among fans recent memory. Regardless on which side you fall on, one of the players that can help influence opinions more favorably is Zac Rosscup.
The 28th round selection of Tampa Bay in the 2009 draft, Zac Rosscup (many publications list him as Zach, but he refers to himself as Zac on Twitter) came to the Rays from Chemeketa Community College in Salem, OR. Rosscup was a first team Northwest Athletic Association All-Star, along with Chicago Cubs 2012 Minor League Pitcher of the Year Nick Stuck, after posting a 1.60 ERA in 2009. After signing with Tampa Bay, he was assigned to Princeton in the Appalachian League and went 3-4 with a 2.68 and a 1.17 WHIP in ten games (nine starts) that included 27 strikeouts in 40.1 innings.
Details are sketchy as to why Zac Rosscup missed the first 12 games with the rookie league Gulf Coast Rays to start 2010, but in a three-game tune-up had a 1.04 ERA and six strikeouts in 8.2 innings. Rosscup then moved on to Short Season-A Hudson Valley in the New York-Penn League where he was 3-1 in nine games (seven starts), with a 3.03 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP (35 strikeouts in 35.2 innings).
Following the trade to the Cubs, Zac Rosscup was assigned to High-A Daytona for the 2011 season, and he got off to a great start. Rosscup was 4-2 with a 2.54 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP (50 strikeouts in 49.2 innings). However, Rosscup was shut down on June 20 with shoulder issues, and the injuries persisted through the off-season. Rosscup was unavailable for the beginning of the 2012 season and ended up on the disabled list. Working his way back through Extended Spring Training, Rosscup was ready for game action on June 25 and was assigned to Single-A Peoria. Rosscup pitched in three games and struck out 12 batters over 7.1 scoreless innings. He was promoted to Double-A Tennessee where he appeared in 11 games (one start) while pitching only 22.1 innings. The 24-year old was 0-1 with a 4.84 ERA and a 1.48 WHIP that included 29 strikeouts with 19 walks in 22.1 innings. Rosscup missed the final month of the season and ended up back on the DL. Rosscup was slated to join other Cubs prospects in the Arizona Fall League, but concerns about his arm led to Kevin Rhoderick replacing him on the Mesa Solar Sox roster.
It’s easy to see why many like Zac Rosscup’s potential. The 6-foot-2, 205 pounder has a low 90s fastball, along with a curve, a slider, and a change-up, all of which he can throw for strikes. He has 163 career strikeouts, against 53 walks, in 165.2 innings. For someone who records nearly a strikeout an inning, he gives up very few home runs, serving up only five long balls in his career. One of the biggest questions about him is whether he is a starter or a reliever? He has the physical make-up and pitch arsenal for starting, but his control would be desirable for the bullpen. Whatever role he assumes, keeping Zac Rosscup in one piece has been the biggest concern. If he is capable of shaking the injury bug, fans may start asking the question “Matt who?”
Robert Whitenack, RHP
Fortunes can change in an instant, and that is just what happened to Robert Whitenack on May 27, 2011. Now on the comeback trail, only time will tell if he regains the form that placed him among the Cubs’ top prospects.
Drafted in the eighth round in 2009, the North Massapequa, NY native joined the Cubs after pitching the three previous years at Division III SUNY-Old Westbury. With the Panthers, Robert Whitenack compiled a 3.03 ERA with 189 strikeouts in 183.1 innings and won 12 games while being selected conference Pitcher of the Year twice. Whitenack signed with the Cubs after the draft, and was assigned to Short Season-A Boise. Whitenack pitched in 15 games and was 0-4 with a 4.80 ERA and a 1.58 WHIP that included 33 strikeouts in 54.1 innings.
The 2010 season for Robert Whitenack began at Single-A Peoria, where his numbers were still a pedestrian 8-7 record and 4.96 ERA. However, his WHIP decreased to 1.28 as he struck out 63 in 103.1 innings and was promoted to High-A Daytona at the end of July. With the D-Cubs, the light seemed to go on for Whitenack as his ERA lowered to 2.04 and WHIP to 1.06, striking out 28 in 39.2 innings while going 3-1 in seven starts. All this seemed to set the stage for Whitenack, as he returned to Daytona to start the 2011 season. In his first month, he began to show the promise he displayed when drafted in 2009. Whitenack went 3-0 with a 1.17 ERA and a microscopic 0.52 WHIP (25 strikeouts in 23 innings).
Robert Whitenack appeared to be on the fast track, as he was promoted to Double-A Tennessee at the end of April 2011. Things didn’t change much with the jump in competition, as he posted a 2.39 ERA and 1.20 WHIP to go along with a 4-0 record and 22 strikeouts in 37.2 innings. But all of that came to a crashing halt as he crumpled into a heap in eastern Tennessee in late May, and Whitenack had Tommy John surgery to repair his right elbow on June 3, 2011.
Robert Whitenack began his comeback from Tommy John in Extended Spring Training in 2012, and returned to Daytona at the end of May, but things weren’t the same. Whitenack struggled with both his command and velocity. Whitenack posted a 1-6 record in 15 starts with a 5.96 ERA and a 1.90 WHIP. However, the organization still held out hope for the 24-year old, as they added him to the 40-man roster to protect him from being selected in the Rule 5 Draft.
While not overpowering, Robert Whitenack makes the most of his 6-foot-5, 185-pound frame. His low 90s fastball comes at batters on a downhill plane which produces heavy sink. Whitenack also features a knuckle-curve along with a slider and change-up. Prior to his injury, he was able to throw all four pitches for strikes, with his big breaking ball keeping hitters off-balance. Recovery time for most players with TJ surgery is two years, which would make Whitenack 25-years old going into the 2014 season. How he performs this season will be critical in determining whether Robert Whitenack is back on track or just another player unable to return from career-threatening surgery.
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Attention CCO Readers
The Down on the Farm reader’s poll continues this week. You can cast your votes on Twitter, Facebook, and the site. There is now a three-way tie for the lead between infielder/outfielder Tim Saunders, RHP Dillon Maples, and OF Reggie Golden. Please post the names of the minor league players you would like the Down on the Farm Report to follow this season. The CCO will track the progress of ten players throughout the entire season. A representative sample of positions and levels of play is optimal. You can name as many players as you like, but remember, only ten will be chosen. So from Luis Acosta to Tony Zych, all nominations will be accepted and given equal weight. Once a list is compiled of the top 20 vote getters, a poll will be placed on the site to cut the list in half.